The first thing you learn about Debi Thomas is her status as a retired American figure skater. Among her peers, she stands out for a variety of reasons, ranging from world champion in 1986 to Olympic bronze medalist in 1988 to a two-time US national champion.
Apart from that, there is more about who she is; Debi trained as a doctor and then pursued the noble profession – here are the facts of her life.
Debi Thomas – Bio
Debi (Debra Janine Thomas) was born on March 25, 1967, in Poughkeepsie, New York, and grew up in San Jose, California. As a toddler, little Debi revealed to her mother that she wanted to make a living from skating after seeing an Ice Follies skating show. To this end, she got her first skates at the age of 5 and started skating seriously, learning and having fun at the same time under the guidance of Barbara Toigo Vitkovits at the Eastridge Mall in San Jose.
She won her first skating competition at the age of 9, along with some other prizes that came her way, such as the national silver medal for rookies, which she won at the age of 12, albeit with several discriminations by judges because she was black. In 1983, however, she began representing the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club, which further boosted her career and shamed those judges who racially discriminated against her. Debi Thomas signed with Scottish skating coach Alex McGowan for formal skating lessons and he led her career all the way to her Olympic wins.
For the 1986 ABC Sportswoman of the Year award, which she won, Debi won both the US National title and the World Championships that year as the first female athlete to win both titles while still a full-time college student (Stanford University). She also received the Candace Award for Trailblazing from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
In her youth, she experienced many professional successes as a figure skater – thanks to her perseverance despite the discrimination she encountered when she was still an amateur figure skater. In February 1989, she finished 12th in the Q-Score athlete ranking as the only woman among the top 22.
Debi has not stifled her dream of becoming a doctor in favor of her skating career. She graduated in 1991 with a degree in engineering before going on to study at the Medical Faculty of the Northwestern University of Feinberg, where she graduated in 1997. This was followed by a surgical residency at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Hospital and later orthopedic surgery residency at Martin Luther King Jr./Charles Drew University Medical Center in South Central Los Angeles, where she graduated in 2005. As an orthopedic surgeon, she specialized in hip and knee joint replacement.
Her Family – Parents, Husband, and Son
Although Debi was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, she grew up in San Jose, California, where her parents, both computer specialists, were offered jobs in one of the new technology companies that helped create the Silicon Valley we know today.
Her family was one of the very few African-American families living in the neighborhood at the time. Sadly, she was raised by her mother, Janice Thomas, as a single parent because her father – McKinley Thomas (a computer program manager) – separated from her mother in 1974 when she was young.
It can be said that Debi’s mother was wealthy at the time and able to take care of her child’s needs because she worked as a computer program analyst in Sunnyvale, California.
Debi Thomas had an enviable career as an athlete, but her married life was filled to the brim with turbulence.
On March 15, 1988, in Boulder, Colorado, she married Brian Vander Hogen, but the marriage did not last long as the love that once brought them together grew cold and divorce was granted in 1991.
Then came Chris Bequette, an attorney for sports law. She married him in 1996 and had a son with him in 1997. They named him Christopher Jules “Luc” Bequette. The couple later divorced in 2010. Now Debi lives with her fiancé – Jamie Looney and his two sons Ethan and Austin – in southwestern Virginia.
Quick Facts About Debi Thomas
1. Debi Thomas was born on 25 March 1957
2. Her birthplace was Poughkeepsie, New York, United States;
3. She attended Northwestern Medical School and Stanford University;
4. She is 5 feet 5.5 inches tall and weighs 53 kg;
5. She has gray hair now;
6. She lost custody of her son in her second divorce;
7. Debi is said to have lost all her savings and is now struggling to survive